10 Dead and Critical Factors Behind Why We Need Native Species in Agroforestry

10 Dead and Critical Factors Behind Why We Need Native Species in Agroforestry

2.5-minute read

Afforestation and agriculture— how could we possibly screw that up? 

"Planting trees," universally a good thing, right? Nope! 

"Growing food," always a positive action, correct? Nope!

Whether we are planting trees, growing food, or integrating both of those activities (agroforestry) on a large scale, to maximize benefits, we must give priority and the majority of our cultivation to native(endemic) plant species. There is a saying, "Right plant in the right place." 

Cultivation of any plant can have harmful effects depending on the plant's biocompatibility within the context of the bioregion. 

Plants have both abiotic (non-living) and biotic (living) interdependencies with their endemic ecosystems and hereditary climate tolerance.

Focusing on the abiotic elements, native plant species have evolved relationships with these in their bioregion.

Abiotic elements include: 

  • rain
  • wind
  • temperature
  • soil pollution
  • nutrients
  • pH
  • sunlight

Native plant species are co-conducting ecosystem services with these abiotic (non-living) interdependencies.

Even though there are millions of different plant species, and even if I love the smell of eucalyptus, this tree species will be the villain of this info article today. I must assert that: planting the wrong plant in the wrong place is not exclusive to eucalyptus.

Eucalyptus trees, native to Australia, a country with one of the only animals (koalas) that feed on eucalyptus leaves, were imported and cultivated in California in the 1800s. California has no koalas, and the allelopathic chemicals in the leaves of the eucalyptus trees are creating soil conditions that are incompatible with this state's flora. Due to their fast growth rates, aggressive reproductive cycle, and domination of growing space, eucalyptus is regarded as an invasive species in California.

Eucalyptus leaves' allelopathic compounds inhibit most vegetation from growing near the eucalyptus trees. Over time, eucalyptus trees will rapidly spread and create their own monoculture grove, effectively stamping out much of the region's biodiversity. 

These are not ideal trees for California also due to their extreme evapotranspiration rate— that is, they pull water out of the ground and push it up into the air at a much faster rate than other trees native to California. This rapid evapotranspiration dries out the soils in California's ecosystems faster than they can typically recover, subsequently creating unfavorable consequences for the native flora and fauna. 

All flora and fauna in an ecosystem play a role in the energy/reproduction cycle of life. When eucalyptus trees decimate the biodiversity of an ecosystem in California, the plants and animals that were dependent on all the different plant species are no longer able to survive in the eucalyptus groves. Many consequences arise, including the inability for energy or waste cycling within the ecosystem. Plants, animals, and soil microbiology are not able to consume and decompose the accumulating organic matter of the eucalyptus trees as efficiently as they can with their bioregion's other native species. Due to the disruption in the decomposition cycle, the soil becomes less and less fertile as chemical compounds are not being broken down and made available through the soil food web.

Planting the wrong plant in the wrong place can have disastrous effects. We saw how eucalyptus trees in California negatively affect:

  • soil fertility 
  • soil hydration 
  • biodiversity 
  • energy/waste cycling 
  • flora and fauna habitat 
  • local hydrology

In conventional, modern agriculture, some of the costliest and largest carbon-emitting inputs are for fertilizers, biocides (pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.), and water.

When planting native economic species, the input requirements are significantly reduced due to the biocompatibility for the plants with the region. 

—(Native)"Life" begets (native)life. Native species support the reproduction of each other—a self-supporting, hyper-efficient closed-loop system.


Every plant has its place, and not every place is for every plant.

Plant native. The native life around you will love it.